In – Between

About a week ago, I handed in my two weeks’ to the touring company. With the colder months approaching, the tours will be slowing down. They will pick up in October because of Halloween, but with September being so bare bones, schedule wise, I figure I might as well spend that time training for the new job (live infomercials in stores) instead of waiting to get thrown a tour.

I didn’t get a response to my resignation e-mail, and I thought it was my boss being her usual passive-aggressive self. I expected to log into our scheduling system and find myself inundated with tours during the time I had declared myself done with the job. Instead, my calendar is blank for the entire month. Again, I figured this was her passive-aggression, but today, I got an e-mail from my boss basically saying, “I’m so sorry, I’ve been out of town for the past few days… Can you please work for us through October?”

I said I’d see, but I thought it was interesting how a boss who abuses her employees thinks that I would be quick to say yes to working for her more, when I had another opportunity. This is the boss who got annoyed that I had to go my uncle’s funeral, and the one who expects me to have extra hours laying around in my day to work if she demands it.

But this company is understaffed, so I am in a position of power: they need me, and I can say yes or no. My boss asked if she could fix it by giving me more hours. “Tell me how many more you need, and I’ll try to make it work.” She doesn’t seem to understand that even if I worked all day every day for them, I still wouldn’t be able to support myself, but I don’t see how that can be a surprise; she knows how much I earn and she also knows how much it takes to live. Plus, her treatment of me certainly hasn’t, until that e-mail, shown me that my time was of any worth to them.

So with my not being scheduled for September, for now it looks like this past Friday was my last tour. I was surprised not to be working over the weekend, but since I worked a few jobs for most of the week, it was nice to get to sleep in on Saturday and Sunday. Then, when I was awoken by thunder yesterday, I was more than happy to stay cozy in my bed with my laptop while the rain pounded against the window. But by midday yesterday, I was restless. The novelty of having the whole day to myself had worn off. When I have a whole day every now and then, it’s a gift. But now I’m in the position of that being the norm for possibly a week longer, and that’s kind of killing me. Thankfully, I am working at the university on Thursday, so hopefully that will make me feel useful again.

I’m also in between two beginning stages of taking anti-depressant medication. I took my first pill two Saturdays ago, got my dosage upped this past Friday, and now I’m waiting for it to actually start working. It might take another four weeks, which kind of sucks, but I’m just hoping it works at all- otherwise, I might have to start all over with another one. But it’s too soon to tell either way.

Harassment

Because I live in a city- no, scratch that: Because I’m a woman, sexual harassment is part of my everyday life. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is.

The first time I was ever sexually harassed (that I can recall), it was when I was doing my summer job during my college years, working as a tour guide. A group of teenage boys, led by their rabbi, came to the tourist attraction and at the end of the tour, used the public guest book to express that their favorite part of the tour was my chest (though they used decidedly cruder words than that.) I was humiliated, tore the page out of the book, destroyed it further, and threw it away. I didn’t say a word about it until a year later, when the boys came back and I begged to be taken off their tour (I was, by my horrified manager.)

When I was hired as a server at a restaurant with a bar, I absolutely expected to be sexually harassed. To my surprise, though my personal bubble was invaded once or twice, that didn’t happen. But when I was a hostess at a different restaurant (the one that fired me), I witnessed something very disturbing. The owner of the restaurant is quite famous in Philadelphia and New York, so when his relatives came to his restaurants, they were of course given the best treatment and service. I was only working at this restaurant for a month, but the owner’s father visited at least four times while I was there. He was given his choice booth, he and his guests were given their meal for free, and they were given the best server in the place… or rather, the best server in the place that was also a pretty young woman. Maybe the second time he came to visit, one of the managers actually said to my fellow hostess and me, “[Owner]’s father will sexually harass you. Just let it happen.” And while he didn’t really bother with us, I watched from across the restaurant as he flirted with and touched his waitress however and whenever he pleased, sometimes even following her over to the computer stand and putting his hand on the small of her back as she punched in his order. I never said anything, and I often wondered whether, if I had, I would have been fired.

The reason I was spurred to write this post is because this week has been fraught with harassment. After my first psychiatry appointment, it was nice out, so I decided to walk to work instead of take the subway. Within thirty seconds of leaving my doctor’s building, I had two guys catcall me, Two days later, I led a tour as usual. My group of eight happened to be comprised of very pretty girls, probably college age. As I was leading them around the city, we were shouted at at least four times, and I can honestly say this has never happened before, because I have never led a group of all young women.  It made me extremely uncomfortable, though my group didn’t seem fazed, which is good, I guess.

I like to think of myself as a strong woman and a feminist, and when I experience stuff like the above, or read about it on sites like Everyday Sexism, or see it happen on the streets. But am I really that strong or really a feminist if I can’t speak up when it happens? I know that part of the reason people harass others is to make themselves feel powerful and to bring humiliation upon their victim, but I wish I could rise above that humiliation and speak up. I’m not at that point yet, though, as evidenced by an incident a few weeks ago. I was sitting at the ticket table outside of the cafe with my female coworker. We’d already had an incident that day of non-sexual harassment, which was bad enough that one of the cafe employees came out to make sure we were okay, so we were already on edge. Then this homeless man came up to us and asked my coworker if she had a light. She said no. He was standing behind my chair and decided to ask me if I had one… very far into my personal bubble. I shook my head and pulled my book closer to my face. “You don’t got one?” he asked, leaning in closer. His hands weren’t on me, but they might as well have been. “No,” my coworker said sharply. “She doesn’t.” He got even closer, mumbling about how he wanted “a piece of that.” “Thank you,” my coworker snapped. “Move along.” In true harasser style, the man started reaming out my coworker for being strong and standing up, and I felt terrible; she was taking the flak for me because I couldn’t do it myself. I just felt terrible about every aspect of the experience, and I hope I’ll act differently next time.

Life/Job

There have been a lot of mix-ups in my tourguiding job lately. On Tuesday, we had one too many guides for a tour (a mistake that is certainly preferable to this morning’s situation, when a group of 60 kids and teachers showed up and no guides had been assigned to them.) Also on Tuesday, I was assigned to give a 11:15 scavenger hunt to a group that had a tour before the hunt. The group was supposed to leave for the tour at 10 am. They were 25 minutes late and, upon arriving, required a bathroom stop, which always takes an extra half hour. As soon as a group is late, we tour guides instantly start axing stops, because we are required to get the tour back by the time on our sheet. However, the guide leading this tour elected to give the group the full 75-minute tour and give them a shorter scavenger hunt time, since you can’t fill out the hunt without learning about the answers, which you get on the tour.

This was a good, solid choice on the guide’s part. After we finished the hunt, I went to my boss’ apartment to drop off the hunt supplies and pick up some more uniforms. On the way up, she asked how the tour went. I explained to her the situation and she leveled me with a stare. “So you DIDN’T offer to give them extra time on their scavenger hunt?” I told her no, we kept it in its alloted slot. “Well, did the other guide have somewhere to be or something afterward?” I knew she didn’t, but I didn’t want to throw her under the bus, so I said, “Yeah, I think she did.” “Hm,” my boss said. “I’ll have to talk to her about that.” The interrogation continued and it was obvious that the other guide and I could do absolutely no right by this woman.

This morning, I caught up with the same guide, who reported that she had been chewed out over e-mail by our boss. Besides berating the guide about all the things that had been covered with me, the boss also asked the guide if she had somewhere she had to be the day of the mix-up. The guide told her no. “Well, good,” the boss said. “Because you’d need to clear that with me. There’s no reason you shouldn’t have been able to add an extra 45 minutes to your shift.”

Say what?

Now, I like this job. It’s a nice job for an actor to have because it allows me to sort of do what I love. But this is still an entry-level position. A high schooler could do this job. So what on earth makes my boss think that we need to dedicate our entire lives to this not-even-a-career? This past week, I was told (not asked) that I was being given an extra tour. I had scheduled my therapy for that time slot but, not saying a peep to my boss, rescheduled my session for Wednesday and took the extra tour. I was then asked on Tuesday to give a tour during my rescheduled therapy time slot. This time I said no.

I am very dedicated to my jobs. Besides the fact that I need the money, I’m a chronic people-pleaser, so I like to say yes to any shift that comes around. But I do have a life outside of my jobs; I learned back in March that working so much that you don’t have a life is not healthy. So after I get my monthly schedule, I plan the rest of my day around my shifts. And while I understand that there are emergencies, I don’t get why this boss expects me to have an extra 45 minutes to several hours to add to my already-present shift. I’m a tour guide, not a doctor; my job is not so important to society that I should expect to drop everything at a moment’s notice to go into work. It seems to me that she wants to be notified of every little conflict, but I have to wonder- if I am having lunch with a friend, do I need to tell her that in case she decides to give me a tour? She’s denied people going to important doctor’s appointments in the recent past, deeming the request “ridiculous.”

Having had so many jobs in the past year, I know better than most people how insane the job market is. It’s hard to get a job, but it’s just as hard to work the job you eventually get. Even at entry-level positions, they’re now expecting you to dedicate your life to these jobs. They don’t ask you to take a shift- they tell you that you’re taking it. Certainly, we’re all strapped for cash and most twenty-somethings I know are ready and willing to fill in an emergency shift. But the fact is that we’re still people. Taking a day off every few weeks to spend with friends or family shouldn’t be considered a crime, and taking a few hours to go to the doctor should be allowed to be put BEFORE the job. How can employers expect their employees to work up to the level demanded of them if they’re run ragged? For the past few weeks, I’ve worked five to six days a week, sometimes doing two jobs a day, and that is perfectly fine with me. I can handle that. But I wish that that seventh day, the one that I cherish during the rest of the week and milk when it finally arrives, wasn’t seen as me being lazy. Perhaps if these jobs paid us enough to allow us to only have one job, the story would be different. But as it is, we twenty-somethings need to have at LEAST two positions to keep our heads above water, and I think it’s only going to get worse.

That Tour Was a Little Too Exciting

Today, I was scheduled for two historical tours. The first one was at 10 am, and the second wasn’t until 1 pm, so I packed a sandwich and a book for the in-between time and set off for work. My first group was one of three groups from an elementary school, my charges around eight or nine years old. They were, comparatively, a pretty good group- besides the constant inquiries about whether we were going to go into any of the historical sites (No. No no no no.), they listened and asked good questions.

When we were about three-quarters of the way through the tour- so, about 45 or 50 minutes in- I was leading the group of kids and chaperones down a street when there was the sound of breaking glass. I turned around in time to see my tour patrons being showered with sizable pieces of glass, all falling from somewhere above. We all just stood there stunned for a few seconds after the glass stopped falling, looking up. Then everyone started getting a little freaked out, realizing what had just happened. No one was screaming or crying, but everyone, included me, was very obviously shaken by it. The pieces of glass that had fallen on us ranged in size from very small to about as long as my hand. I asked if everyone was okay and got a yes, so I moved them away from the site, and as I did, a man ran to the doorway of the building and stared at us.

Outside of our next stop, the teacher asked if we could stop. She asked how many of the kids had been hit; five raised their hands. Four of them claimed to feel no pain, but one girl was pressing her hand to her head and saying it hurt. The teacher checked her head pretty thoroughly, but there weren’t any cuts or bumps. Still, the teacher requested that we end the tour and go back to the museum where we started.

I led the group back to the starting point, where I asked for the hundreth time if everyone was okay and the students sat on the grass and started on their lunches.  I stayed and talked to the teacher, who was on and off the phone with the school and the school nurse. The girl was still complaining of pain, so I ran into the museum and asked if they had a medical professional on site. Amazingly, they didn’t. The teacher requested ice for the girl’s head, and I had no idea how I was going to get it, or carry it. But then I remembered that I had a sandwich in my backpack for lunch, so I took my sandwich out of its bag, put the sandwich into my backpack, and took the plastic baggie to the museum’s cafeteria, where I filled it with ice at the soda station. The teacher handled the situation in a very level-headed manner, but she was worried about the girl’s mother, who, apparently, is wont to sue, even though the whole thing was an accident.

Eventually, there wasn’t any more I could do, so I went back to the incident site and took a ton of pictures on my phone, and as I was doing that, the guy who I’d seen run to the doorway appeared. I wondered if he would kill me if I went over and asked him what had happened. I did, and he was very nice, and also very worried about the kids. He waited while I talked to my boss on the phone a few times, then waited with me while my boss made his way to us, and then for another hour as the three of us waited for the police. Yes, it took the police nearly an hour to get to us. We were hoping that an officer would walk or drive or horse-ride (seriously) by, but not a single one was to be found. When one did drive by and stopped when we waved him down, he told us that we weren’t his call and that someone would be by soon. “Soon” turned out to be twenty minutes later, and after all that waiting, giving the report only took about seven minutes.

Because the officer took so long to get there, I missed my second tour and went home early, where I had to transfer all my pictures of the incident and write up a report for my boss. All of this, after the excitement of the afternoon, was tedious, but having been in car accidents, I know how important an accurate report is. It will be interesting to see what comes of all of this. Whatever happens, I can safely say that I do not want anything like this to happen again.

Too Many Opportunities?

Is that possible? I think it might be.

As I mentioned two posts ago, I just got a new job with a tourguiding company. After I officially had the job, I debated cancelling all of my interviews that I had that week. But I decided to go to them, in case the tours didn’t work out (I think my last job traumatized me; I seriously don’t trust anyone anymore.) I don’t think I’ll get the last box office job I talked about, simply because they didn’t like how clear I was that I wanted to have an acting career. It seems weird that a theatre would have that reaction, but that’s their prerogative, and it’s not an ideal position for me because of all the numbers.

I had another interview on Monday for a house management position at a big university in this area. To be honest, it’s not the type of job I usually go for, for the exact reason I never go for other non-acting theatre jobs: house management hours are actor hours. I expected the interview to go much like the box office meeting had gone. But the whole feeling of the interview was different. I sort of felt like I was being ganged up on at the box office interview; at this one, I had an actual conversation with the manager, who liked me because I was early, friendly, and wore a blazer (she told me this.) “As far as I’m concerned,” she said, “The job is yours.” I was stunned and shockingly excited. I didn’t think I actually wanted the job, but as it turns out, I really do. I get to use the natural bossiness I usually try to hide to direct a staff and I get to be in a theatre setting, even if all of the gigs aren’t of a theatrical nature. I got my hire letter today and I fully intend on accepting the position. I don’t think it’s enough money to allow it to be only one of two jobs, so as of now, I’ll be serving and touring as well as house managing. But it’s nice to feel enthusiastic about a non-acting job for once.

Then yesterday, I got a call from a restaurant I applied to a week or two ago. I was thrilled to be called, but I felt it would be wrong to interview when I had just been hired at the tours AND (unofficially, at that point) the university. So I said, “I’m really sorry, but I actually just got a job this week. Could you maybe keep my application on file, just in case?” (Again, I trust no one anymore.) I thought he would be miffed that I was giving up an opportunity, even though I couldn’t have known I would be hired elsewhere when I applied at this restaurant. Instead, he said, “We’d really like to bring you in. Can you come in this week?” So on Friday, I have another interview.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do if this restaurant job is genuinely attractive to me. I’m a very loyal person, and I would feel bad quitting the serving job I have now. I like my coworkers and my managers, I like singing, and I haven’t even been there a year. But if I want to take this new restaurant job, the serving job will have to be the one to go, because their hours will be the same. Honestly, it may come down to pay. I get paid very well at my serving jobs, compared to most waitresses, and I never forget that. But if this restaurant job pays better, and it’s a stationary workplace, and I wouldn’t be serving… that’s pretty alluring. Of course, I may be getting ahead of myself; this new restaurant might not want to hire me. But if they do, I’ll have some decisions to make.

Just to make things more complicated, today I found out about the PERFECT job for me. It’s so perfect, I don’t even want to say what it is. Suffice it to say that I got a headrush after reading about it, crafted my cover letter in a way that (I hope) screamed “HIRE ME!!!!” without the frothing-at-the-mouth enthusiasm I felt, and an hour after I applied, I worried that they had already put my application in the “no” pile. I’ve been driving myself crazy all day wondering whether they’ve gotten the email/read it/thought about it/were thinking of replying. If I don’t get this job, I’ll be truly heartbroken.

And then there’s the job I kind of doubt will ever pay me enough to be considered a job: I was hired by an online newspaper as a freelance writer, covering arts-related events at my alma mater. My first article was accepted and published on the site, but we’ll see how much of a job it ends up being.

None of this is anything to complain about, of course. In this economy, to have one job is lucky. To have this many opportunities is insane. I’m grateful for all of them, but I will have to pick and choose, and that kind of thing is hard for me. I don’t like quitting and I don’t like letting people down, even if it’s to take advantage of a new and/or better opportunity. What I need to remember is that I need to think about myself, not how I might hurt other’s feelings, especially since I think people usually understand when someone needs to move on.

Again, this could all be premature. But I am hoping that soon, I’ll be working jobs that are closer to what I love to do while still allowing me to do what I actually love to do.

Application Anxiety

I should be memorizing my lines for the film. That’s what I came to this cafe to do, besides pass the time before my serving shift starts. But I am just really, really tired, which makes it hard to concentrate on something like that. I shouldn’t even be tired; I let myself sleep until ten this morning since I’d been up before the sun the two mornings before. But though I woke up refreshed, my job interview today really stressed me out, and now I’m exhausted again.

My interview- one of three this week, in addition to the ten applications I walked around the city distributing; I now know the true meaning of “pounding the pavement.”- was for a theatre in the city that I greatly admire. Though it seems natural for an actor to work in a theatre in a different capacity than onstage, I actually never have, save for when I did an internship a few years ago. It’s actually something I’ve kind of avoided, simply because box office and front-of-house people (for which I was applying today) keep the same hours as actors, making it impossible to do the box office job AND be in a show at the same time. But I decided to apply anyway because I really would like to work in a theatre, and who understands an actor’s schedule better?

When I got there, I was handed an application, and the paper that was stapled to the back made my stomach drop. It was a math problem. My fear of math is such that I actually almost handed the paper right back and said, “I’m sorry, I won’t be applying for this job anymore.” Instead, I reminded myself that I worked in a box office before and I do handle money when I waitress. As it turned out, it wasn’t a very hard problem, one that most people could probably do in their head, and I was able to work it out without much trouble.

When the manager came out to talk to me, she was not happy with my availability. At first, I thought how stupid I was to, basically, be honest about my schedule, but later in the interview, when it was revealed that if there is no show, their employees don’t get many hours, I was happy I had been honest. That’s actually one of the hardest parts about job interviews for me. I don’t want to have a full schedule that my potential employer sees as a huge problem; I just want to write over the blank schedule, “I CAN DO ANYTHING!!!” But the fact is that I have a job already, and while I need another one, putting the first in jeopardy is not the way to go about it. It got to the point, in this pre-interview interview, that the manager left to ask the other manager if they should even bother going further with the interview because of my schedule. Even though this was a product of my being honest, I felt horrible, though if I’m honest, my feelings probably had more to do with not wanting my name on this theatre’s general blacklist than potentially losing this job.

But to my surprise, they decided to proceed and the interview itself actually went quite well. Even so, it was really draining. Pretending to be peppy for that long is exhausting, especially while the inside my head is a jumble of commands: ‘Keep looking at her; she’s talking,’  ‘Don’t get distracted by that person on the other side of the window. DO NOT LOOK AT THEM!’, ‘What is your body language saying right now? Keep it open,’ ‘Be an active listener!’, ‘Don’t get nervous and lie and say ha ha, you were just kidding on the application, you can do any hours they want OHGODPLEASEHIREME.’

Of course, I’m not as desperate as all that anymore, for the simple reason that I got another job! This past Tuesday, I had an audition/interview for yet another touring company (my new motto is, If You Do Tours, I’ll Be Yours.) It went very well, and I could tell they really liked me. It’s honestly not the touring job I wanted- I’d actually prefer the company I auditioned for yesterday- but at this point, I just need a prospect; I can focus on the dream day job (as if there were such a thing) later, once I can actually pay my rent. Plus, it pays fairly well, I might get tips, the hours are good for any rehearsals I might have as well as working with my serving job, and I’m a good tourguide. I debated whether I even wanted to go on these other interviews, but since I still have to memorize and participate in some unpaid training for this new job, which could take awhile, I figured I might as well try to get something even for a little awhile, and if I can hold three jobs, then I’ll have to quit one of them. I just want to see if I can do it, especially since I have no idea where I’ll be living come May. I thought I had it all worked out until yesterday. I went to look at my high school friend Ashley’s apartment last weekend, and the situation was perfect; besides it being a really nice, in-the-city apartment, I think Ashley and I would make good roomies, and she needed someone exactly when I did. So I agreed to live there, but when she went to tell her landlord that she had someone to take her current roommate’s place, he informed her that he was demolishing the apartments at the end of the student year. Because she’d have to move to a one-bedroom a year from May (she’s getting married), Ashley’s decided to just look for one now and avoid the extra move. So now I’m back to square one.

It’s funny how I’ve only been not-even-actually-unemployed for two weeks, but it felt like months because I was so stressed about getting something. I really wish I had quit the tours earlier so I could be working my second job now, instead of basically starting it when my serving job is picking it up, but what can you do? I’m just too trusting of my employers sometimes, though I wish we lived in a world where we could trust every employer in the world. As it happens, my leaving the touring job was only the start of a flurry resignations from that company; Beth quit less than a week after I did, and my other friend who works for them, Olivia, has seen the light, too, not to mention that Jane is thinking of quitting, as well. Hopefully this shows our boss how irresponsible she’s being.

Since I haven’t been working steadily for a few weeks, going back to work, even for one day, has proved to me that it is all this walking that causes my injured foot to hurt, which I guess is obvious. Even after just one shift of constant walking (and stupidly forgetting my shoe insert), I was limping from my car to my apartment building. Of course, I had been walking around much of the day, including dancing in the morning during an Emperor’s New Clothes show, but it was definitely work that aggravated it. These past few weeks, I kept thinking to myself how great my foot felt. Well, I guess it didn’t feel great, it just felt like a foot, like a part of my body that was working the way it’s supposed to. But there’s no way my life- or anyone’s, really- allows them to rest it as much as I was able to during the last month.

But as much as I know my foot will be hurting by Sunday night, I’m very grateful for this Valentine’s Day weekend; beginning last night, I am working five shifts in four days. During the summer, this scheduling would be something to complain about, but besides the fact that I need the money, I’m really glad to be doing something to earn that money, instead of sitting around worrying.

The Time My Job Made Me Poorer (More Poor?)

Today, I quit my job as a tourguide.

It was not an easy decision to make, partly because I like the job very much and it was perfect for working around an audition/rehearsal/other job schedule, and partly because my serving job is so slow as to be pretty much nonexistent at the moment, so these tours were my only source of income.

But let me repeat that: MY ONLY SOURCE OF INCOME. I already knew that as soon as my serving job slowed down, money would be tight- and that’s with the help my parents are giving me. But I did the math and I knew that if I put every paycheque from touring in the bank, as well as most of my tips, from December to March, I would scrape by without much of a problem. This seemed like a smart, frugal plan, but a wrench was thrown into it when something beyond my control started to happen, or rather, not happen: I wasn’t getting paid.

I’m a nice person, sometimes an overly nice person. I let people get away with a lot of stuff, making excuses for them left and right. I’m not as lenient as I used to be, but between being nice and hating confrontation, I don’t really question people when something like not getting paid happens. And throughout October and even November, when I hadn’t been paid for a growing number of tours, I was able to ignore it because I still had a fair amount of serving money coming in. But toward mid-November, the serving job slowed and I hadn’t received any payment for nearly a month of working for the tours. Again, I made excuses for awhile: Maybe they pay monthly. You’re just lucky getting paid every two weeks with your other job. So I waited until it had been a full month since I had started working for them and sent my manager an email inquiring whether I had been forgetting to pick up my cheques. She answered that my cheques would be sent to me. Okay… So I waited.

Then my serving job, to my shock, got even slower. Like, one shift every two weeks slow, and I ended up having to give up all of those shifts because I was either in rehearsal/show, or I was working, you guessed it, for the tours. I had been given some hush money by the  tour company (if you can call $40 hush money), and had gotten maybe one other paycheque from them since I had sent the first email, but the amount of money they owed me was slowly climbing into the hundreds. A week or so after Thanksgiving, I did the math and was floored to see that I was owed nearly $700.

The amount of owed money kept climbing, but the boss managed to keep the number from hitting $1000 by picking and choosing my lowest-amount weeks and sending me cheques for those… for about three weeks in December. Then the money stopped altogether. Even worse, because she was picking and choosing- three tours from that one week in November, one tour in October, etc.- it was very hard to keep track for which weeks I had been paid. To date, I haven’t received a cheque from them since mid-December. Admittedly, I spent a good amount of money on Christmas gifts, but even so, I shouldn’t have felt like I got a hit by a truck when I looked a the number in my bank account.

While at my aunt and uncle’s for Christmas Eve, I was telling my family my story of woe, just in conversation. As it happens, my uncle is a lawyer, and he was pretty disturbed by what I was saying. In the end, he mentioned that if I needed him to sent what my dad called a “nastygram”, he could do that, since usually official-looking letterhead is enough to scare people into action. I said thanks, but I was sure everything would be fine.

Christmas came and went. So did New Year’s. No cheque. Again, I made excuses. ‘It’s the holidays, of course she’s not working’ (even though I was working either on or around both of those holidays, for her, as well as picking up every single emergency shift for which they needed coverage.) On January 2nd, I sent the boss a polite but firmly worded letter saying that I absolutely needed to be paid for my work for the past three months. I requested that I be paid in full by January 31st, 2013. Usually she’s not so great about answering e-mails, but this one got her attention. She wrote back less than twelve hours later, apologizing profusely, claiming that 2012 had been a slow year, but the funds would be in soon and everyone would be paid. I breathed a sigh of relief.

Then last week happened. After every tour, we’re required to text both our Philadelphia manager and the boss in Chicago, letting them know how the tour went. They always text back, and when I got my response from the boss, she added, “By the way, I just sent a cheque your way for $120.” Well, $120 is better than nothing, but, compared to what she owes me, is pretty close to nothing. Since she had opened the door to the payment conversation, I barged right through. “Thanks,” I texted back. “Will I be paid the full sum by the 31st, as requested?” I waited nervously for her answer, but when it came, my nerves were replaced by anger. Because instead of “Yes, absolutely, don’t worry!” the gist of the text was, “Um… well… maybe? But probably not.”

What?

“But I haven’t been paid either!” she added. But I didn’t really care about her situation; as the business owner, she can choose how and when to pay herself, but leaving about twenty people hanging financially is not cool. I honestly have no clue how my fellow tourguides handle this. I know that many of them are still in college, and some have significant others to help them with bills, but even so, people usually get jobs because they need the money. To get that money late or not at all makes life pretty hard. When I first got this job, I did the math and thought excitedly that once my serving job picked up, I could probably pay ALL of my bills on my own, if I worked both jobs at a regular pace. Now that plan is shot and I must go job hunting again.

I wish things had turned out differently; this job is marketed to actors for a reason, and it was working out perfectly in every other way. But sadly, I don’t have the funds to work for no pay. So I wrote the emails- one to the managers of Philadelphia and Chicago, and one to the boss- and I talked to both of my parents about it and then I sent the emails. A lot of cringing went on as I hit ‘send’, and I’m sure the cringing will continue until it’s all finalized. I’m not a quitter. But I’m also not a doormat. And unless I choose for my work to be volunteer, I will not allow it to be so.

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